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Hindu Iconography (Based on Anthological Verses, Literature, Art and Epigraphs) (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: UAS465
Publisher: Agam Kala Prakashan, Delhi
Author: S.P. Tewari
Language: English
Edition: 1979
Pages: 162 (Throughout B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 9.50 X 7.50 inch
Weight 510 gm
Book Description
About The Book

Hindu iconography has always been a fascinating study. The broad spectrum of the icons has attracted the attention of everyone, Oriental and occidental. The aspects and attributes of the images have been described and intrepreted variously according to one's ken and mental capacity to reach a higher plane of thought. Thus, most of the western scholars restricted themselves to counting faces and hands, viewing the Hindu gods as grotesque and so with disdain and derision. Yet there were others of the same ilk, like the German Zimmer, who could rise above the ordinary to penetrate deep and interpret sensibly the underlying philosophy of the Hindu pantheon. On the other side, Coomaraswamy and Agarwala were superb in bringing out the philosophic conception and the aesthetic sense of the sthapatis and silpis to elevate Indian art to unknown heights. These apart, the study of Hindu iconography, till recently, has been mainly based on strict compart mentalization of the agamic, tantrik, silpa and other scriptural straight jacket.

The present book of Tewari is quite different, deviating from the beaten track. Besides the scriptural tenets, the asirvachanas, dhyanamantras and mana galaslokas of classical sanskrit works do invoke the benediction of gods for the successful completion of the task undertaken. So too, the numerous epigraphs of many a monarch of ancient days. These present a panoramic picture of the poet's fancy or the conception of the devotee of his Ishtha devata and incidentally offer an insight for a fresh and happy iconographic interpretation of the benign and merciful god head. Tewari has reconstructed Hindu iconography from such data from sanskrit anthologies, literature and epigraphs. His approach is novel. and coorprehensive; an approach not so far attempted by anybody.

About the Author

S. P. Tewari (b. 1944) obtained his Master's degree in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology with merit from the Lucknow University (1969). He joined the National Museum, New Delhi in 1971.

A recipient of the Netherlands Government Reciprocal Fellowship (1973) Tewari pursued advanced studies in South East Asian Art and Archaeology at the University of Amsterdam. During his stay in Europe he visited almost all Museums of repute to study the collections of Indian Art. In Europe he has lectured, on invitation, on Hindu iconography, Epigraphy, Culture and Numismatics at several Universities, viz. Lille (France), Brussels (Belgium), Amsterdam (Netherlands), etc.

Presently he is with the Archaeological Survey of India in the capacity of Epigraphist specializing in Numismatics. He has contributed a number of research papers to journals of repute.

She has published more than a dozen papers on Stone Age Archaeology of India. The paper entitled 'Statistical Studies with reference to technique of Manu facture of Palaeolithic artefacts' was included in the proceeding of the International Symposium on Radiocarbon and Indian Archaeology (1973) and 'Settlement in Stone Age India', was accepted and published by the International Symposium on Geo graphic Dimensions of Rural Settlement (1976). Influence of Raw Material on technique. Typo-technological study of Lower Palaeolithic Industries of India' and 'Some aspects of technique in the Old Stone Age Cultures of India' are some of her other important publications.


Iconography of the Hindu gods and goddesses as being studied now is based on an age-old pattern. For about a century the same old pattern of identifying images with the help of some certain marks and attributes narrated in the lines of Silpa-texts is invariably being followed. It was absolutely necessary at a time and is still useful. There is no doubt about it. But for making the iconographic studies more comprehensive and lively than these are, it is necessary to look at the icons from various angles. What is more needed in this respect is the application of various literary and epigraphical records which have rarely been dealt, putting face to face with iconography. For example many times, the epigraphical passages specially the invocatory verses, enlighten the student of iconography more than so many heavily strained, pedantic and finicky descriptions of the silpa-sastras. The reason is that the said verses from the epigraphs of literary compositions while giving a minimum possible description of the image, speak more on its beauty and aesthetic appeal. They characterise a charm born of natural and spontaneous description which is often very suggestive and unconciously point out the most noteworthy features of iconographic representations. In otherwords, whereas the silpa texts very conciously encumerate each and every minute detail of an image (and thereby make it more factual but heavy) the verses from literary texts and epigraphs illuminate the same truth from a different angle which is found more lively, suggestive and full of devotion as well. In fact like silpācāryas, the poets of these verses had not to bother about the acute details of the image formation as it was already before them to see and visualise (if in any case it was not there, they conceived the idea at least form different mythical resources) the beauty, the form and the gracious identity of the icon in person. This is why, these unconciously made remarks of the poets of the epigraphical verses serve a two fold purpose, one is when they suggest (or point out) the form of the deity and other is when they appreciate it with the eyes of a poet and heart of a bhakta. We propose here to look into the icons of Siva and Visņu with this angle of literature and epigraphs.

Here, a word about the poets of the inscriptions may not be out of place who acted as court poets, pandits and priests and in many cases held even bigger and more responsible offices of the state. We know from the bulk of the inscriptions published so far that these poets-who composed the prasastis were highly qualified persons, particularly in the field of linguistics, literature and mythology. They enjoyed an equal command over the sciences of silpa, sthapatya, chitrakala and many others. It's no wonder that much before the site for a temple was selected and a deity was installed therein, they were duly consulted. It's a pity that these connosieurs of the time have not been duly rewarded with the share of the credit, they deserve, in the formation of iconography and the hearty appreciation of the icon by the present day art-historians and the students of iconography, An humble effort is made here to sort out the invocatory verses from sanskrit epigraphs and to see how far they reflect on the identity, the beauty and the magnanimity of the icon.


Iconography deals with the icons and icons were made with the basic aim of being worshipped. Worship is an outcome of devotional sentiment. It is this sentiment which is termed as Bhakti in Indian languages. A real devotion is a submission to the Lord before whose icon a devotee concentrates himself. During the course of his devotion he appeals (praises or begs) the Lord in so many ways, in so many words and these words form the body of a prayer. In the simple humility of his prayers he forgets the man-made boundaries of caste, creed and blood. He prays for the welfare of one and everyone. This is why the compositions of this sort are classified as Asirvacanas, Namaskaras, Prarthana slokas or Mangala sloka and so and so forth. They ensure the eternity and auspiciousness of the thing which is done or undertaken to be done after their recitations. This belief in mangala (welfare and auspiciousness) through the wording of prayers has yielded so many verses. Where besides Asirvacana or Namaskara, there are found so many subsidiary facts about the icons. The curious fact is that they all originate from the basic concept of auspiciousness combined with an idea of personal and universal welfare.

Basic concept of auspiciousness is as old as the history of man himself. If the meaning of the symbols like swastika and others is taken in the same sense as we take it now, some of the pre-historic paintings having those symbols, may be taken as a good example to trace out the antiquity of auspicious or inauspiciousness. As we are more directly concerned with historic period and there too more with the period our literary records came into shape, we are not going to deal with the prehistoric records for our purpose at the moment.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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